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Interviewed by
Danielle Street
Wednesday 27th January, 2016 5:31PM

Los Angeles outfit HEALTH are heading this way to perform at Laneway Festival in Auckland on Monday. The stop-over is a highlight for the noise-pop group, according to bassist John Famiglietti, who says that the "potential for fun" is greatly raised on a festival tour. And he should know, HEALTH have been busy touring in all shapes in sizes since the release of their third studio album Death Magic, which came out last August - after a six year gap since the release of their second full-length offering Get Color. UnderTheRadar wrangled some time from Famiglietti while they were in Paris to have a chat about the album, but mostly about the puking in the 'New Coke' video he directed, and the prank Reggie Watts played on him...

Hi John! How's your day going? Where are you at?

Oh good, I'm in Paris. We just spent the whole day driving so we watched JFK in the van and that's about it.

Oh cool. What's happening in Paris? You playing some shows?

Ah Pitchfork Festival! I think we are going to hit the fest tonight and maybe see Beach House, and then we are playing tomorrow.

Cool! So, ever since your single 'New Coke' was released I've wanted to know why you guys called it that, because to my knowledge New Coke is a failed marketing strategy of the Coca Cola company in the 80s...

Yeah, that's the reference. It's kind of a bad joke I guess. It's like we've been away for so long and we're back, so this is like "New Health" it's like "New Coke". It's our new sound.

But hopefully more successful than New Coke...

Ha yea, the joke is that New Coke totally failed. And it's totally associated with Bill Cosby too, we didn't see that coming.

Oh right. Yeah, so when you say a "new sound", do you mean a move to a more poppier kind of sound, which has been pointed out in a lot of reviews of the Death Magic album?

No, I just mean a more electronic production. There's sort of a hi-fi production sound, and new tones and stuff. It wasn't taken that seriously. We just named the song 'New Coke' and everyone really loved that.

Right, because people have commented that Death Magic is more poppier than your previous albums. And some people have drawn comparisons to 80s music, like Pet Shop Boys and Depeche Mode. Does that seem strange to you?

Uhh, Depeche Mode doesn't seem that crazy, we're not trying to sound like them, but I get it. Pet Shop Boys - didn't see that coming at all. I do like Pet Shop Boys, but really we're not thinking about that - that's for sure.

Another one I liked, was that someone called Death Magic Health's version of Dark Side Of The Moon or Sgt Pepper's, in that it is such a stand out album...

I don't know about that. That's a rarefied air reserved for masterpiece albums. I don't think it's exactly there. It's very nice of someone to say, but I don't think we're there yet.

The video for 'New Coke', you directed that yourself, right?


What made you want to get some slo-mo puking action for the video?

Uh, it wasn't my idea. We were doing the song and there's the part in the middle, the "drop" if you will, and our producer was like "dude, what if the video was like a guy throwing up in extreme slo-mo?". And we were like "that's, that's a great idea". And that was the video plan.

And did you actually just get him drink gallons of milk to puke?

Yup, it's a science thing. If you get a gallon of milk right now and chug it as fast as I can, I mean you don't even have to chug it that fast, but if you drink as much of it as you can, you will EXPLODE with vomit.

It's such a potent thing, watching someone vomit, it induces such a strong reaction...

Yeah... well our friend is also really good at puking. He has extremely strong vomit powers.

Was there several takes, did you do it over-and-over, or did you have to get it all in one hit??

Nah, you can't do it over-and-over, you'd just be so sick. The phantom camera runs at over 1000 frames per second - you have to just catch it. So we had the guy there, and we actually just missed this huge puke and then we got a tiny one. But the camera man was good and caught it right on the fly and got a huge one. So it was awesome.

And you put your cellphone number at the end. Did you regret that?

Ahhhh, I did for the first few weeks.

Because you got a lot of calls right?

Oh yeah, I got like several thousand hahaah. Oh actually recently the comedian Reggie Watts just put that frame up on his Instagram, so I got all these fucking calls from Reggie Watts fans.

What did they want?

They want me to fucking beatbox. They'll be like "hey Reggie, make me some sounds". I was trying to pretend I was him for a little bit, but people started getting way too intense, so I was like "fuck this".

So with Death Magic out how are you guys feeling, after such a long time between records?

Ah, the reaction on this tour has been pretty amazing. So that feels good. It feels like how it's supposed to. It took a long time to get right, we did make it and scrap it, and made a video game soundtrack in that time. But it's still way too long. I mean, six years is a fucking eternity in music. So it's great people that people are still interested, because you start a band and wait six years to put something out - you're probably done. I'm glad that hasn't been the case for us.

Especially because that's more than half your band life, you guys have been together for roughly ten years...

Yeah, totally. Even now I'm sometimes like "what the fuck". I can't believe it. But once you hit four years, your so fucked it doesn't matter any more. you're like "oh what's the difference from five" haha.

So you've been touring a lot and we will see you in Auckland soon for Laneway...

That's actually what I'm looking forward to the most.

Oh really? Woo hoo.

Haha yeah, we really like being over there. And we really wanted to do a travelling festival. All the bands in the same hotel and the potential for a good time is great.

Watch the stomach-churning video for 'New Coke' below...

are performing this Monday 1st February at Laneway Festival in Auckland, head over here for details.


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